Good self esteem and positive thinking lead to positive action (healthy, assertive, solution- focused behaviour) including goal setting, problem solving, dealing assertively with others, taking risks for success and building a balanced lifestyle. Positive action keeps us motivated in achieving the goals we set ourselves which in turn leads to numerous benefits including; feeling happy; increased sense of confidence and control (self-efficacy – ‘I can’), improved health and relationships with others, managing challenges better and learning from mistakes. So self esteem is an important thing.
Self esteem is often described as the ‘feeling’ or the ‘value’ we place on ourselves as a person (and the things we do). E.g. ‘I feel good about myself’; ‘I’m okay even if I’m not perfect at sports’; etc. The ‘feeling’ or sense of self esteem we experience (high or low; good or bad) comes from the way we think about ourselves and is often buried in some sort of judgement we make about ourselves and/or accept from others. The world is full of standards, expectations and judgements – but the ones we accept and hold about ourselves determine our self esteem and our experience of life.
You’ve probably heard of some of the following definitions of self esteem that fit with this description. Self esteem is: The way you see yourself (not the way others see you); Accepting yourself for who you are regardless of your limits; Liking yourself and treating yourself as unique and special; Feeling ‘capable’ of getting through the normal life challenges and; Feeling good about yourself.
Because our self esteem is directly related to our thinking (our beliefs, values, judgements, standards, expectations and criticisms) learning to manage our own thinking is essential. ‘Positive Thinking’ is a habit of thinking about things and ourselves that is realistic/rational, balanced, solution focused and helpful. Therefore positive thinking leads to a good self esteem and is also proven to be effective in improving our moods, health and ability to solve problems. Negative thinking on the other hand can lead to anxiety and reduced motivation to take positive action e.g ‘I can’t do it’; ‘it won’t work anyway’; ‘what if people don’t like what I do’.
It stops us from giving ourselves and ‘the situation’ a go and a chance to test out if our negative thinking is really accurate (and in most cases it’s not).
Our personal self esteem comes from a combination of our past experiences, our belief system, our standards, our connectedness with others, our successes and failures and the judgements and criticisms of others. But most importantly our self esteem comes from how we ‘think’ about these things. Encouragement from others, forgiveness for mistakes, accepting each other ‘warts and all’, a kind word from a special person, hugs and shared time are all examples of positive behaviour that help us learn to be kind to ourselves and others and provide that message – ‘you are a worthwhile and valuable person’.
Often our judgements make our self esteem ‘conditional’ on meeting certain standards. E.g. I’m okay if I do it perfectly every time’, or ‘I should be able to keep at 100% or I’m lazy’. When we accept without question the unrealistic or unrelenting standards or criticisms of others (or our own) we may be placing our self esteem in danger. Similarly we often make unfair comparisons between ourselves and others, failing to take into account that each of us has a unique set of circumstances and opportunities in our lives. E.g. ‘that person (who won the lottery) has a sports car, so they’re better than me’.